Palma harbour is to be completely remodelled with a new ferry terminal being built on the old commercial quay in front of the Cathedral with merchant shipping being switched to the Dique del Oeste. The 35 million-euro modification project was yesterday approved by the Balearic Port Authority, although Palma city council has to give the plan the final green light. A new passenger terminal will be built on the site of the old commercial quay which, eventually, will handle both ferry and cruise passengers. Port Authority president, Francesc Triay, said yesterday that between 1996 and 2001, passenger traffic in the Port of Palma rose by 63 per cent with cruise liner traffic increasing by 89 per cent and merchant shipping 136 per cent - hence the need for a complete modification of the harbour, Triay said. Providing Palma city council gives the project the green light, work will start on the port modifications next year and is expected to be completed by 2006 with the costs being shared between the Port Authority and the European Union which will channel funds into the project via the Ministry for Development in Madrid. Once completed, a raised walkway will enable cruise and ferry passengers to disembark and stroll straight into the centre of the city while heavy goods vehicles and merchant traffic will be diverted away from the Paseo Maritimo and the city centre, straight onto the Via Cintura ring road or the Palma to Andratx motorway. The old lighthouse will also be restored and the surface area of the docks increased to provide potential space for businesses, shops, restaurants and bars. Triay was keen to point out that the new project will not have a “visual impact” on the sea front, to the contrary, it “will breathe new life into the capital.” The old cranes which dominate the sky line over the old quay will also come down. Triay explained that steps will be taken to ensure that, while the project is being carried out, traffic along the Paseo, especially in the Porto Pi area is not thrown into chaos. The Porto Pi roundabout will become the new exit point for heavy goods vehicles and Palma and Madrid are currently discussing widening the roads in and out of the Porto Pi junction to ease the flow of traffic. The Port Authority boss also said that the ambitious project will also provide the perfect opportunity to renovate all the ferry and cruise passenger facilities and install new services. The cruise industry, especially in the western Mediterranean is expecting another boom over the next three years with the United States market returning to Europe next year and some of the world's largest cruise companies basing new ships in Palma. Steady growth in ferry passenger numbers is also forecast to continue as the shipping companies compete with the domestic airlines. The Port of Palma wants to establish itself as the western Mediterranean's number one cruise destination.

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